The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Dudley-Street,-Seven-Dials.-Gustave-Doré-(1832-83) top 10

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.

Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.

Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.

Let’s get to it:

the-well-samsara

The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural

A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.

Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.

With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegración hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.

On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.

And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.

To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.

If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & SilverWrenDeath Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.

 

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Comet Control, Comet Control: Electromagnetic

Posted in Reviews on April 29th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

When Toronto shoegaze-psych explorers Quest for Fire announced they were done in Jan. 2013, hints were dropped that new bands were already in the works. For guitarist/vocalist Chad Ross and guitarist Andrew Moszynski, that hint pays off in the arrival of Comet Control, who make their self-titled debut on Quest for Fire‘s former label, Tee Pee Records. Some elements are recognizable between the two bands — Ross‘ distinctly dreamed-out vocal style and a penchant for languid guitars permeate cuts like opener “Blast Magic,” “Hats off to Life” and closer “Master” in a way one might draw from one act to the other — but by the time Comet Control‘s Comet Control has played out its vinyl-ready eight songs and 40 minutes, there can be little mistaking one for the other. Quest for Fire‘s self-titled debut from 2009 and its 2010 follow-up, Lights from Paradise (review here), had their rocking moments as well, usually as a payoff to some gradual build, but Comet Control is by far a more active-sounding band. Comprised of Ross, Moszynski, bassist Nicole Howell, keyboardist Christopher Sandes and drummer Jay Anderson, the five piece get into some genuine space rock on memorable songs like “Future Forever,” the highly-stylized “Ultra Bright” and perhaps most of all on “Century,” the dividing point of the tracklist and presumed side B launch. The upbeat material is what most marks out Comet Control, but the emerging dynamic and fluidity with which they shift from faster material to slower psychedelia is no less integral to the overall vibe of the album, which is hazy enough to limit visibility and yet clearheaded in its execution of hooks like that on “Ultra Bright” and “Future Forever.”

Those two particularly stand out for their relatively straightforward take. Comet Control opens with a sprawl; “Blast Magic” is the longest song on the album (immediate points) at 8:04 and can almost be read stylistically as a transition point between Quest for Fire and this new band. It is a slow roll, steady in its nodding appeal, and Ross‘ vocals in both the verse and the chorus incantations make a familiar impression over the lush instrumentation. Even here, though, Comet Control have a heavier, fuller sound, less concerned with minimalism and more comfortable in the heft emerging. This proves to be a precursor once the subsequent one-two shots of “Future Forever” and “Ultra Bright” introduce the faster, more swirling side of Comet Control‘s sound. Looking at the record’s structure in a linear form — digital or CD, though vinyl is pretty clearly what they were thinking of in putting it together — the five-piece depart from “Blast Magic” and continue to build momentum through “Century” before they pull back again on “Hats off to Life,” which puts “Future Forever,” “Ultra Bright,” “The Soft Parade” and “Century” into a distinct movement separate from the other four tracks included. To say half the record is fast and half is slow is over-simplifying it — and flat-out wrong, time-wise — but it reinforces how much opening with “Blast Magic” adds to the richness of the proceedings that the album as a whole comes across not as bifurcated along tempo lines, but as an engagingly complex and varied release, whether it’s the blown-out bass buzz of “The Soft Parade” adding a touch of garage to the effects wash and Anderson‘s well-grounded drumming or the acoustic psych-blues push of the penultimate “Fear the Haze.”

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Comet Control to Release Debut Album May 20 on Tee Pee

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 19th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

By the time they split at the beginning of 2013, it was starting to get a little silly how much I dug Toronto slow-psych aficionados Quest for Fire. Their second album and swansong, 2010’s Lights from Paradise (review here), I still consider top notch, gotta-have heavy psych for those unstirred by the bulk of the post-Dead Meadow fuzzgaze set, and when bassist/vocalist Chad Ross released the 2011 debut from his Nordic Nomadic solo-project, Worldwide Skyline (review here), I was right on board with the folkier vibes as well. What Comet Control, which reunites Ross with former Quest for Fire guitarist Andrew Moszynski — as well as bassist Nicole Howell and drummer Jay Anderson — might portend sound-wise, I don’t know, but you can be damn sure I’m interested in finding out.

Comet Control will make a self-titled debut via Tee Pee Records on May 20. The PR wire offers the following:

COMET CONTROL to Release Debut Album “Comet Control” May 20

From the Ashes of Celebrated Rock Band QUEST FOR FIRE, A New Shooting Star Rockets Towards the Heavy Psych Scene

COMET CONTROL is the new band from Andrew Moszynski (guitar) and Chad Ross (vocals/guitar), formerly of Canadian psych rock champions QUEST FOR FIRE. The powerhouse musicians are joined in COMET CONTROL by Nicole Howell (bass), Jay Anderson (drums) and Christopher Sandes (keys) and the group’s eight song self-titled debut is nothing short of stunning. Comet Control will drop on May 20 via Tee Pee Records.

COMET CONTROL extends the dark, bass-driven washes of sound that QUEST FOR FIRE fabulously produced and drenches it in majestic bursts of pastel post-rock guitars and bright, breezy vocals. Recorded at Toronto’s Candle Recording (Fucked Up, Sebastien Grainger) and mastered by Carl Saff (Bass Drum of Death, Earthless), the album exceeds expectations, delivering a driving, dreamy sound that will lodge itself in your ears and refuse to let go. Simultaneously heavy and sunny, COMET CONTROL rocket to the forefront of today’s dark psych scene and deliver a modern classic with their triumphant debut. Out-of-this-world, futuristic cover art and packaging for Comet Control, designed by far-out artist SIGNALSTARR (known for his work for the 20th Century Fox film “Prometheus”) adds to the potent push of the record’s searing scope.

“After Quest for Fire broke up, Andrew and I still had a lot of songs in the works,” commented Ross. “We are very excited about how things turned out. Everything clicked really fast with the new band, and the songs have taken a step in a fresh, new direction.”

Track listing:
1.) Blast Magic
2.) Future Forever
3.) Ultra Bright
4.) The Soft Parade
5.) Century
6.) Hats Off to Life
7.) Fear the Haze
8.) Master

https://www.facebook.com/CometControl
teepeerecords.com

Quest for Fire, “Sessions of Light” from Lights from Paradise (2010)

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